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To offset a driver shortage, the Roseburg School Board proposed increasing its contract with First Student.

The Roseburg School Board voted to encourage a bus driver salary increase and to add a teacher’s planning day this December during Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

Since the start of the school year, a nationwide school bus driver shortage has impacted how students get to and from school. Superintendent Jared Cordon said he continues to receive emails from parents expressing frustration over route inconsistencies and the length of time students spend on buses.

“It goes without saying that transportation shortages are impacting and have impacted our kids,” Cordon said. “We have students on the bus for an extended period of time. An amount of time that I would consider unacceptable.”

In a move to lessen the driver shortage, Cordon proposed making an agreed-upon 2.5% contract increase with First Student, a transportation service that is in contract with the district to supply drivers for yellow school buses, with hopes it will lead to a salary increase for drivers. This would come from an existing contract with First Student and will move a salary raise intended for the 2022-2023 school year to this year — with no additional increase for 2022.

This could cause contracted drivers to see their hourly rate jump from $17 an hour to $20. The increase is expected to cost the district close to $104,500 extra this year, with 70% reimbursement expected through the state of Oregon.

Denny Austin, the district’s purchasing manager, said the shortage is “both physically and mentally” taxing for drivers with half of them now working two or more routes.

“They feel very strongly that they can’t get the job done to their satisfaction, let alone, to the satisfaction of our parents and our students and what we deserve,” Austin said.

The shortage of drivers has even impacted charter services contracted by the district to transport student athletes.

Board Chair Becky Larson said she experienced this first-hand after no buses were available to transport a middle school cross country team to Medford. Instead, parents rallied together using vans to get students to their meet on time and back home, she said.

“What happens is we end up with access issues because not every kid has a parent that can get them there,” Larson said. “And that’s really hard to have to tell kids that if you can’t find a ride you can’t go.”

The board voted to approve the raise increase. It will take effect Sunday.

In an additional move, board officials voted for changes to the calendar year, making the day before winter break, Dec. 17, a teacher’s planning day. This comes after staff reported heightened levels of stress and anxiety, according to Human Resources Director Robert Freeman. This extra day can provide faculty time to finish tasks so they won’t have to worry over break and can “de-escalate a bit,” he said.

The meeting adjourned with a festive nod to Thanksgiving around the corner as several board members expressed gratitude for each other and hardworking faculty.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 15 and will be held over Zoom.

Madison Temmel is the education reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at mtemmel@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217.

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Madison Temmel is the education reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at mtemmel@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217.

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(2) comments

Huge bbfan

Wow. They need to start getting to the "Root Causes ". But I guess the buck doesn't stop there.

Boyd Cothran

What are the “root causes”?

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